As the temperature drops, stews and soups become the soul-warming go-to dishes to make for family and friends. And what better ingredients to use than vegies and herbs picked fresh from your garden? Snow peas, broccoli, Asian greens, coriander and chives are all delicious crops you can grow and enjoy during winter. All it takes is prep, a sprinkle of fertiliser and knowing the right herbs and vegies that will take you through to spring.
Prepare your soil
If this is your first vegie patch, then it’s a good idea to test your soil’s pH before getting started, advises Steve Falcioni, marketing manager for Eco Organic Garden. “Australian soils are often too acidic and most crops will perform better if acidity is reduced. Use [a product such as] liquid ‘Eco-Flo Lime’ or ‘Eco-Flo Dolomite’ to quickly reduce soil pH,” he says.
On the other hand, when you’re replanting an existing patch, keep in mind plants take on nutrients from the soil and, over time, the nutrients will become depleted. So it’s important to add them back to ensure plants remain happy and healthy. “Add bulky organic materials, such as compost, aged manure and a pelletised organic fertiliser to the soil and fork in well,” suggests Steve. This should help to improve soil structure and allow it to better hold in moisture and nutrients. Then, before you start planting, remove weeds and anything unwanted. “Get on top of them now as they’re not growing as quickly,” says Stephanie Gorst, brand manager for Oasis Horticulture. It’s best to spray weeds, since pulling them out will only encourage them to grow back – try using an organic spray alternative, such as Eco-Organic ‘Slasher’.
Autumn is not the time to down tools – your garden can thrive in the cooler months.
Make the most of your conditions
Before choosing vegies and herbs, think about how much sun your patch gets and which plants will work best in your yard’s conditions. “Vegetables need at least six hours of full sun a day to thrive,” says Toni Salter, founder of The Veggie Lady. Otherwise, they won’t grow or fruit as well as you’d like.
But not all hope is lost! “Have lots of shade? Grow leafy greens like kale, spinach and lettuce,” says Toni. Many herbs prefer the colder months, so now is the perfect time to get them into the earth. “Parsley likes the cooler weather and you can also get a quick crop of coriander before any frost,” she says.
You may also like to grow chives, rosemary, mint, sage and thyme, but protect them from frost or grow them in milder winter areas.
“Make sure you can easily access your plants - when they reach new heights, it’s difficult to keep an eye out for pests and diseases”Steve Falcioni
Extend the harvest window
To get the most out of your vegie patch, stagger your plantings. “Plant brassicas, lettuce and spinach staggered over a six-week period, to ensure harvest does not hit at once and fresh produce is always available,” says Stephanie Gorst of Oasis Horticulture. Keep cabbages coming throughout winter by planting different maturing varieties. Yates ‘Sugarloaf’ and ‘Sweet Eureka’ are early maturing and will be ready for harvesting in eight to 12 weeks, whereas ‘Winterhead’ can take up to 18 to 20 weeks.
Avoid planting vegies from the same family in the same spot every year. For example, if you planted leafy greens last year, then plant tomatoes in their place this year.
All about bugs:
“Monitor plants closely for any signs of pests and diseases,” advises Steve Falcioni of Eco Organic Garden. Look for organic plant sprays at your local garden centre and ensure you read the instructions prior to use. Not all bugs are foes – especially not the beneficial ones and pollinators, such as bees. Take care of them and they will help you grow a plentiful patch.
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